Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lazy Sunday # 108: We’re Golden!

team pursuit

You wouldn’t want to be anybody else but Canadian today. From the moment our hockey team kicked Russia’s ass on Wednesday night, so many people around the world have come to realize that Canadians are something more than they thought we were when these Winter Olympic Games started.

Butt kicking the Bear was so profound that people in Eastern Europe now want their countries to become our next provinces. I’d wager even Vladimir Putin decided to leave the North Pole where it is. He’s not opening any can of whoop-ass with us after what he saw in Vancouver.

Whether or not we end up “owning” a podium, I don’t think any of us has a problem with the Canadian face the world has seen at these Olympics.

Yeah, we’ve lost some of the competitions, but from Alexandre Bilodeau’s brother to the breathtaking performance of a heart-broken figure skater to our blissfully beautiful ski bums, we’ve exemplified the tolerance, compassion and simple joy of being alive that the Olympics are supposed to represent.

Some of us may natter about the games not being televised in the traditional CBC Kumbaya/We Are the World fashion or criticize CTV’s approach as little more than a 17 day long episode of “So You Think You Can Dance”, but that misses what has been at the heart of Vancouver 2010.

The rest of the world is beginning to see us for what we really are. Not exhibiting the low self esteem image some of our institutions endlessly project. Not possessing the lack of identity that academics like to debate. But us as we mostly are within the tribe and toward the outsiders we encounter.

Early in the Games, Globe and Mail columnist Stephen Brunt sat with CTV Olympic host Brian Williams in front of the broadcast studio’s fake fireplace and struggled to get a handle on this “new Canadian face”.


Even though, as one of the Media consortium members bringing us the Games, he’d shouldered aside some former Olympic athlete, Afghan veteran or kid in a wheelchair so he could personally help run the torch across the country, Brunt seemed befuddled; unsure if he was comfortable with the Canadians he was meeting in Vancouver.

I hate to break it to you Steve, but this is who we’ve been all along. And if you worked for a newspaper less interested in forming opinion and more in reporting and reflecting it, you might not be wrestling with the issue.

Stephen Brunt is a terrific sports writer. His “Searching for Bobby Orr” may be about the best book about hockey ever written. But his confusion symbolizes how out of touch so many of those who pretend to speak for us actually are with who that “us” really is.

I’ve long believed it isn’t the average Canadian who is the self-effacing, unsure who they really are folks. Those are the traits of those who would govern our affairs or sell us stuff.

cigars on ice

About the only negative memories I’ll take away from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics came from the messages repeatedly sent in the commercials created specifically for these Games. 

First up were all those promos for CTV’s new series which went out of their way to either hide what the shows were about or make you think actors you’d come to love were returning as the same characters that made them famous.

CTV, I’m really pleased you’re making some television drama and comedy. How about having the confidence to really get behind the shows themselves?

Perhaps more disheartening were the spots from the Royal Bank and Visa. After wrapping themselves in the flag and being official sponsors of the Games, both opted to deliver their “We’re proud Canadians” messages through American spokesmen.

There’s no doubt Ed Harris (RBC) and Morgan Freeman (Visa) are actors of consummate talent and distinctive vocal styles. But by choosing wealthy foreigners over equally talented performers who actually live and work here they blunted the impact of those spots and made them ring even hollower when surrounded by the sporting achievements of our friends and neighbors.

Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman will never apply for an Royal Bank mortgage or run up clothes for the kids on a Canadian Visa card.

But the thousands of Canadian actors who do were sent the clear message that they aren’t good enough for these two corporations. Perhaps these performers, their significant retirement funds and the professional expenditures they make should take that financial business somewhere else.

There is, however, one little promo that got it right. Supremely, upliftingly correct.

It features Michael J. Fox and will no doubt run a final time prior to or during the Gold Medal hockey game this afternoon. However that game turns out, win or lose, this short chunk of video perfectly captures who we are, what we cherish and why all of that makes us so special.

Bill Brioux has a great post of the spot’s “making of “ here. And like Bill, I’m hoping you’ll be impressed enough to link to the Michael J. Fox Foundation here to help find a cure for the debilitating disease that has afflicted one of our brightest stars.

Maybe defeating Parkinson’s will be one of the things we accomplish with our newly acknowledged self image. Maybe it’ll be making more self-assured television or not giving so much credit to bankers.

We can do anything. We’re golden.

I mean, we always have been. But now it’s official.

Enjoy your Sunday.


Mac said...

The Legion wrote:

The rest of the world is beginning to see us for what we really are. Not exhibiting the low self esteem image some of our institutions endlessly project. Not possessing the lack of identity that academics like to debate.

My Comment:

But didn't you know that false image of the unassuming Canadian is part of a conspiracy to control the U.S. of Eh and the rest of the world. Change that image and there goes the mission. All our sleeper cells will be exposed and our operatives ejected from Los Angeles, Florida, and the world's banking capitals.

Polly said...

Thanks for this Jim! I was fortunate enough to be in Vancouver for the first week of the games, and I have never seen so many bursting-with-pride Canadians (and this was when we were just getting going with the medals).

The energy on the streets and in the stands was truly awesome and electric. High-fiving complete strangers wrapped in flags. Hundreds singing "Oh Canada" at Robson Square as the flag was raised over the podium. Standing in the snow with others watching hockey on a screen, exactly like in the CTV commercial.

And more than that: the support and admiration for the athletes who gave it their all but didn't make the podium. People from all over the world standing with Canadians in 2-hour long lines to learn more about our country, or buy maple leaf mitts.

So go go Canada. And yes, if we can harness our beautiful power to kick Parkinson's ass, that would be an even bigger win...

Anonymous said...

"Olympic Rant and Roll Sunday"

A couple of things come to mind about security and this Olympics, contrast and compare:

1) It is the largest outpouring of Canadian Patriotism since The 1967 Centennial Celebration.

It is also the largest outpouring of police with semi-automatic machine face 200 protesters, who broke 4 windows and threw 4 liters of paint.

Canada looked like we respond with Pinochet style security in his fascist Chile.

2) Largest Olympic Torch in Olympic History not embedded in a stadium. Largest barbed Wire fence thrown up around a symbol of freedom.

Vanoc responded they needed to protect it from attack. Meanwhile, apparently no one had heard of Plexiglass, or wondered if any of the 10,000 police anchored on a boat 150 meters away "could give a shift" to protect the Canadian way....with good old gumshoes!

3) Largest police and security force in Olympic history. Largest number of officers sent home for offenses ranging from sexual assault to shoplifting.

4) Largest peaceful crowds in Vancouver's storied history.

Largest sore loser security expense for a Russian president who canceled his visit after their hockey team lost to Canada.

5) Best Canadian Cheer: "Gold Canada Gold".

Pepsi's Worst Cheer Ever: "Eh, O Canada Go", quickly dropped after American Fans were heard chanting in response "A, Holes Canada Blows".

6) Best Musical performance, JImmy Falon singing Neil Young tunes with wig and hat.

Worst musical performance, Alexis on Fire after 25 are hurt at the front of the stage 5 mins into their show!

7) Best Quote of the Olympics Donald Sutherland... "May the best team Win, and if the Americans are the best team, may their opponents win!".

Worst quote : The 6th place skier who blamed his loss on his room mate keeping him up all night making sex noises with guests.

Best moment of the games was watching the three Saskatchewan, boys Getzlaf, Morrow and Marleau all score one goal each to defeat a very pesky Slovakian team.

8) Best quote by a host: Jay Onrait, " And coming up at 1:20 Pacific time, the Snowboard cross race from Whistler,....and for our eastern and Toronto viewers, It's 4:20".

Worst Quote by a host: Beverly Thomson, "Jay you love going to raves, don't You?"

9) Best shock of the Olympics: Canadians discovering that they can listen to, and enjoy a real poet during the opening ceremonies.

And that's my Olympic Sunday's Rant and Roll

joel in Sask.